Friday, January 22, 2010
Friday Fun: John Barleycorn Must Die
From 1972, Steve Winwood and Traffic with "John Barleycorn Must Die".
I've loved this song ever since I first heard it in High School around 1975. For years I've tried to play it but couldn't get the sound right. Now I see he is using a capo somewhere up around the seventh fret--Duh!
For all the visions of medievil torture, the song is actually about harvesting Barley to make... Beer and Whiskey! It was an anti-temperance song, with John Barleycorn proving to be the stronger man at last.
Here's the background from Wiki:
"John Barleycorn" is an English folksong. The character of John Barleycorn in the song is a personification of the important cereal crop barley, and of the alcoholic beverages made from it, beer and whisky. In the song, John Barleycorn is represented as suffering attacks, death, and indignities that correspond to the various stages of barley cultivation, such as reaping and malting.
Kathleen Herbert draws a link between the mythical figure Beowa (a figure stemming from Anglo-Saxon paganism that appears in early Anglo-Saxon royal genealogies whose name means "barley") and the figure of John Barleycorn. Herbert says that Beowa and Barleycorn are one and the same, noting that the folksong details the suffering, death, and resurrection of Barleycorn, yet also celebrates the "reviving effects of drinking his blood".
Enjoy the weekend, and tip a little Barleycorn!